An ode to holidays

I’ve never understood people who don’t take holidays. I’ve always lived for mine.

Every hour I’ve spent at work through the years has been punctuated with dreams of my next break, plans about where I should go, what I will eat, what adventures I’ll have. Every holiday I’ve taken includes time well spent planning the next one.

I’ve always used every possible second of my allocated annual leave, sometimes more if I could get away with it. I’ve always believed that the main reason we work so hard to earn the money we do, is to spend it on the things that make us happy. I’m happiest on holiday.

By “holiday” I don’t necessarily mean glamorous, international excursions (although I’ve had my fair share of those). I don’t mean days at sea, on the sand or on the slopes (although those have featured highly). I mean the holiday state of mind. The chance to slow down, take daytime sleeps, put your mind on quiet mode, feel your heartbeat decrease to a level that’s enough to keep you alive but not much more. Sometimes that’s miles from home, sometimes that’s in your own backyard. The effect’s the same.

In New Zealand we’re lucky enough to get 20 days of annual leave per year, minimum. That’s 4 working weeks. Excluding public holidays, of which there are another 11 days. So 31 working days holiday a year. That’s 12% of the total working year (Monday-Friday) that we get to take as a holiday. So why wouldn’t you take them all?

Compare our good fortune to our American counterparts, who only get 2 weeks per year. According to The Guardian, only 77% of Americans actually get this much annual leave. Of those that do, 4 in 10 do not use it all. And US companies are not obliged to roll over unused leave to the next year, meaning if you don’t use it, you lose it. Those who do take leave feel guilty about being away from the workplace, insisting on being connected to email throughout their supposed “holiday”. This pattern is repeated in Australia, the United Kingdom and right here in NZ.

The thing is, it’s important to take time off. Workplace stress becomes like a pressure cooker throughout the year, and without a holiday release valve, something’s gonna blow. It’s no surprise that workplace resignations soar on the return to the office in January. The more time you spend working without a break, the more likely you are to make major mistakes, be that leaving off a zero on a spreadsheet at one end of the spectrum, or running over your work colleague at the other. The flow on effect out of the office is far from insignificant, affecting our relationships with our friends, our partners and our children.

There’s a body of research that indicates that employees that have taken sufficient leave are likely to be more productive. This makes sense – an exhausted mind is hardly firing on all cylinders. Workplace stress is cited as one of the major causes of depression. Holidays go a great way towards alleviating that pressure.

I’ve always found my holidays to be a great time for reflection. To think about my life, what’s working and what isn’t. To disconnect from work and reconnect with my family, friends and myself. To relax, recharge and regroup. To prioritise my wellbeing.

Something that important takes time. So why wouldn’t you take every minute you can?

Source: The Guardian, Linked In

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2 thoughts

  1. We are really lucky in NZ to have so much paid time off for employees. It’s so nice to get away, but staying home and not working is lovely too. I hadn’t left Auckland at all this year so it was nice to leave Auckland for Christmas this year.

    I think Kiwis are likely to take summer holidays because it coincides with our stat holidays and so many businesses shut down completely for 2, even 3 weeks.

    When I was an employee, I always took my annual leave. Some years, I took so much leave, by the end of the holidays, I owed the company hours (they preferred to continue paying me rather than send me to holiday without pay). My annual leave would go into negative values. I worked with people who had over years of annual leave accrued that they refused to take. My boss ended up telling them they had to take all of January/February off or lose their accrued leave. I never really understood that. I’d never refuse to take leave!

    Now that I am self employed, things are a bit different. If I don’t work the whole business shuts down and I don’t get paid so I’m a bit more careful over time off. Still, I’ve given myself over 2 weeks off for the Christmas NY season and will only be home for a couple of days during that time.

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    1. I know exactly how you feel! My annual leave was often in arrears, and I worked with others who just couldn’t bring themselves to take time off. It’s so important. We’re away on and off for most of January (a trip to Japan – yay!!) and I’m wondering how much I can scale work back during that time. I imagine I’ll be taking a laptop and writing when the mood takes me. Which is not a bad state of affairs! Thanks for your support by the way. It’s noticed and appreciated xx

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